World’s Longest Word, World’s Weirdest Words

Wandering around the Web, I came across what’s called the world’s longest word.

I believe this really is the world’s longest word, even though I haven’t seen it. Well, I haven’t seen the whole word end to end.

This word contains 189,819 letters. It’s so long that stretched out in one long line, it would be like looking down an arrow-straight desert highway that disappears into a distant horizon.
desert-road

If I were to show this word to you here, you’d be scrolling and scrolling and scrolling for I don’t know how long before you got to the tail end, the last letter.

This word is so incredibly long it takes approximately three-and-a-half hours to pronounce.

Here’s how the word starts: Methionylalanylthreonylserylarginylglycylalanylserylarginylcysteinylproly…

Yeah, I’m disappointed too. This mile-long word is the chemical name for titan – a human protein that, as its name implies, is the largest known protein. [Titans were a race of giants in Greek mythology; various large things have been named after the Titans — RMS Titanic, for example].

So the word titan, spelled with five letters, and [insert world’s longest word here], spelled with 189,819 letters, mean basically the same thing? That’s crazy!

But in a way, it makes sense. The world’s longest word mimics the titanic protein it represents – a long, long, long string of molecules. It is what it is.

By the way, my favorite long, long, long word is hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.

hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia noun fear of long words

Strange, Wondrous, Rarely Used Words

Outside of technical, scientific and medical terms, we rarely if ever use extra-long, multi-syllable words. Words like horbgorbling, mautuolypea, ozoamblyrosis just don’t come easily to mind. Spellcheckers don’t recognize them; most dictionaries don’t list them. These obscure words are difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to spell.

And if you should use such fancy, five-dollar words, only a tiny, tiny fraction of the population has the wide-ranging vocabulary to comprehend what you’re saying. Which in the case of ozoamblyrosis is too bad as that word means loss of sexual appetite because your partner has unpleasant body odor.  Ask someone you’ve just met socially if he or she has ever suffered from ozoamblyrosis – there’s a great conversation starter! (Though they may, against all odds, know what ozoamblyrosis means and complain that your question is not only rude and inappropriate but ostrobogulous as well).

Our quirky English language has plenty of words that are strange and wondrous in spelling – such as zenzizenzizenzic (meaning the eighth power of a number), and strange and wondrous in meaning: a retromingent is an animal that urinates backwards, as lions and raccoons do.

The strangest single word that I’m aware of is spangchew, which apparently means to throw a frog into the air, a concept so weird that you wonder why anyone would ever feel the need to coin a word for it.
Richard Watson Todd, Much Ado About English

Would you like to be a sesquipedalian (one who uses big words)? Check out BIGWORDS.com – “Type in what you’re looking for and we’ll hook you up with the lengthiest words we can think of.” People will think you’re sooo smart ‘cause you use such BIG words! Why don’t you drop the pretense and get down here with us and watch Honey Boo Boo.

Short words get all the action – easy to say, easy to spell, instantly understandable. Short words are so handy they often have more than one meaning. The simple word set has 126 meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participal adjective. (Source: Bill Bryson, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words). Short words are broad and general in meaning; long words are pin-point precise and unique.

If obscure English words fascinate you – words like chankings, dishabillophobia, or philodox – may I suggest Charles Harrington Elster’s There’s A Word for It! A Grandiloquent Guide to Life.
chankings  food that you spit out, such as seeds and pits
dishabillophobia  fear of undressing in front of someone
philodox  someone in love with his or her own opinions

See & Hear the World’s Longest Word!

Want to see the world’s longest word in its entirety? You can download a 65KB text file of the word here.

Or you can watch this guy take three-and-a-half hours to read out loud the word in its entirety. Watch the flower bloom and wilt as he goes on and on, seemingly without a pause. You’ll see the guy’s beard grow as the pronunciation drones relentlessly pass an hour, two hours, three. You have to wonder if he was able to do this reading in one take!
Just click on the photo to view video and kill an entire afternoon. 

longest word video link

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Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more     nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass 

Humpty-and-alice (1)

The purpose of language is to convey meanings.

We depend on words to carry a thought from our head and deliver it to someone else’s head.

But sometimes words fail: they don’t communicate the meaning we had in mind.

When words fail, either we misused a word or a word misused us.

Mr. Dumpty misuses words; the words he chooses to express his thoughts only confuse Alice.

I don’t know what you mean by “glory,” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously.  ‘Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”’       from Chapter 6, Through the Looking-Glass

On the other hand, the English language is as idiosyncratic and illogical as Humpty Dumpty. Many words in our quirky language delight in deceiving us, delivering an entirely different meaning than the one we intended.  These trickster words are called homonyms.

Homonyms are two or more words that share the same spelling, or the same pronunciation, or both, but have different meanings and origins.

So a word can look like duck, sound like duck, but not mean a web-footed swimming bird but something you do to dodge a blow or avoid an unpleasant task.

Mischievous homonyms can pull the pants down of the unwary writer, as seen in these newspaper headlines:
Prostitutes Appeal To Pope
Chicago Checking on Elderly in Heat
‘Bare Children in Mind’ Plea to Drivers [Sign seen on restaurant door: No Bear Feet Allowed]
Here’s How You Can Lick Doberman’s Leg Sores

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in meaning, such as ceiling and sealing, hours and ours, way and weigh.

Homographs share the same spelling, and sometimes the same sound, but have different meanings. Examples are close (to be near) and close (to shut), incense (a burnt aromatic) and incense (to make angry), and refuse (to deny) and refuse (garbage).

And then there’s just plain confusingly similar words, such as biannual and biennial, immanent and imminent, insolate and insulate.
I straighten out these tangled words for you in the list below.

Some (homophone: sum) of my favorite homonyms, homophones and confusingly similar words:

allowed  permitted
aloud  in a spoken voice; not silently
Steve protested that reading aloud is not allowed in the library

altar  raised platform for worship or sacrifice
alter  to change

biannual  twice a year
biennial  once every two years
Steve’s curio shop, Bizarre Bazaar, has a biannual clearance sale and a biennial going-out-of-business sale

bole  stem or trunk of a tree
bowl  deep, round dish or basin
bowl  participate in a game of bowling

eminent  high in station or rank; prominent; distinguished
immanent  
internal or inherent
imminent  likely to occur at any moment

faces  have a difficult event or situation in prospect: the defendant faces a maximum sentence of ten years
feces  waste matter eliminated from the bowels; excrement
Following the dog feces fracas, Steve faces eviction

gull  to deceive or trick
gull  seabird
Steve tried to gull the gull with a plastic minnow

insolate  exposure to the sun’s rays
insulate  using various materials to prevent the leakage of heat
Insolate to get warm and insulate to stay warm

quail  lose heart or courage in difficulty or danger
quail  bird
quail TimBentz

shoe-in  common misspelling of word below
shoo-in  a candidate, competitor, etc., regarded as certain to win

soar  to fly aloft or about; to rise to heights
sore  painful

straight  having no bends, turns, or twists
strait  narrow channel connecting two bodies of water

wine  fermented grape juice
whine  to cry in distress, or in a high-pitched, complaining manner
Wine, wine, wine the night; whine, whine, whine the morning
wine flu

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words that I’ve posted to date.
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Animal Homophones

I have two bird words in my selection of favorite homonyms, homophones & confusingly similar words: gull and quail.

I’m working on a list of words for animals that are homophones, such as horse and hoarseGull and quail don’t count because they’re homographs — they have the same spelling as the words I pair them with. I just brought up gull and quail because they’re animal words and remind me of this Nelsonlist I’m working on, a list of animal homophones (same sound, different spelling). It’s a very interesting list and I’m having fun putting it together and …

Oh, you’re laughing at me. I know what you’re thinking: Dude, what a life you’re having!

Hey, what are you working on, a cure for cancer?

Anyway, here’s my work-in-progress list of animal homophones:
bear/bare
boar/bore
deer/dear
doe/dough
ewe/you
flee/flea  (you’re right: an insect, not an animal. So sue me)
fowl/foul
gnu/new
gorilla/guerilla
herd/heard
hare/hair
horse/hoarse
leech/leach  (leeches are worms, worms are animals, not insects)
lion/lyin’  (OK, I’m cheating a little bit here)
minks/minx  (a minx is a flirtatious girl; minks have beautiful fur)
owl/awl
tern/turn
whale/wail

Do any animal homophones occur to you? I’d appreciate suggestions, just use the comment box. Oh, the rule is, you can’t do a Google search. Has to come straight out of your own little head. Builds brain muscles that way, so you won’t get Al’s hemorrhoids when you’re old.

LittleHorse2